Churu Lok Sabha Elections 2024: 8 Issues That Will Decide Fate of Rajasthan's BJP Bastion

1 month ago

Churu Lok Sabha constituency, situated in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, is one of the 25 parliamentary constituencies. It falls under the General category and includes the entire Churu district, along with a portion of the Hanumangarh district. It currently encompasses eight Legislative Assembly segments — Nohar and Bhadra in Hanumangarh district, and Sadulpur, Taranagar, Sardarshahar, Churu, Ratangarh, and Sujangarh (SC) in Churu district. Churu will vote in Lok Sabha elections in the first phase of polling on April 19 and the counting of votes will be held on June 4. The key candidates in the fray are BJP’s Devendra Jhajaria and Rahul Kaswan of the Congress.

Churu — A BJP Bastion

The BJP has been ruling the seat since 1999. In 2014, Rahul Kaswan, son of the then MP Ram Singh Kaswan, won the seat with a massive margin of 2,95,000 votes and a vote share of 44.85 per cent against the BSP.

Kaswan’s score improved further in 2019, when he retained the seat with a margin of over 3,34,000 votes and a vote share of almost 60 per cent against the Congress which had fielded a Muslim candidate and emerged as the second-largest party. The BSP slipped to the fourth place with a vote share of only 1.21 per cent.

The 2024 election in Churu, however, is going to be a tight contest between BJP and Congress. In a pivotal plot twist, the odds are stacked in favour of Congress since Rahul Kaswan switched parties after being denied a ticket by the BJP.

The Rahul Kaswan Factor

Rahul Kaswan and his father Ram Singh Kaswan, before him, have been consistently winning the seat since 1999. The Kaswans are an influential political family with tremendous sway, especially among Jat voters who form 15 per cent of the population in the state of Haryana.The narrative among Jat voters is that the BJP has let down one of their biggest leaders by denying him a re-election and cutting down his rising stature.Rahul Kaswan, 47, has played an exhaustive role in ensuring implementation of central schemes during his term as a BJP MP.Kaswan joining the Congress also has the added angle of addressing the issues of farmers, predominantly Jats, who make up a significant portion of the constituency. He has vowed to take up farmers issues.The BJP has granted ticket to Devendra Jhajaria, who is also from the Jat community, and a Paralympic gold medallist.Jhajaria, however, is not a recognised political figure and is no match for Kaswan’s aggressive brand of Jat politics.Why matters soured between Kaswan and the BJP is rooted in the traditional Rajput-Jat rivalry that flows along this belt. Rajputs are numerically smaller but form the powerful ruling elite.Rajput leader Rajendra Rathore, another tall figure in the state, has been accused by Kaswan of being instrumental behind the ticket denial to him.Incidentally, Kaswan is married to the niece of Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar and his supporters are miffed that even that could not save his seat.

HOW BJP, CONGRESS FARE

The Narendra Modi factor remains strong but BJP faces some challenges owing to the party’s fallout with the Kaswans.

Churu is the place from where the prime minister made his first address immediately after the Balakot airstrikes and it made a significant impact in the seat. This event is said to have propelled the party’s fortunes further in the Jat belt.

However, the key issues since then have shifted to the recent friction between Jats and the BJP— first with the farmers’ protests and then with the wrestlers’ protests over alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers.

ism and Hindutva, especially Ram Mandir inauguration, will help the BJP significantly. Upper castes and Rajput votes lean towards BJP, and the backward castes will be split between parties.

So far as the Congress is concerned, the five years of the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in the state had left many unhappy, especially among the farmer community.

The recent exit of 1,370 leaders, among them former ministers, sarpanches, pradhans, and ex-MLAs to the BJP, also caused significant upheaval within the Congress establishment. However, the party has consistently backed Jats on many issues in the last 3-4 years. Now, with Rahul Kaswan joining the Congress party, it has been placed in an advantageous position.

Kaswan could potentially swing Jat votes in the entire Shekhawati region which includes Churu, Nagaur, Jhunjhunu and Bikaner. The Muslim community, that forms 12.9 per cent of the voter population, is also expected to back the Congress. This has given Congress a significant edge in a seat where it previously stood little chance.

Voter Demographics

Total number of voters (2019): 20 lakh

Urban: 24.4%

Rural: 75.6%

Literacy rate: 56.83%

Voters by Caste (Approximate):

SC: 22.3%

ST: 0.6%

Voters by Religion (2011 Census):

Muslim: 12.9%

Hindu: 85.7%

Christian: 0.06%

Sikh: 1.3%

Key Issues Affecting the Constituency

Farmers’ Issues: Farmers in this largely rural constituency face a host of issues, including water shortage, absence of irrigation, shrinking yields, falling incomes. The region struggles with low rains and a wide temperature arc from minus 1 in the winters to 51 degrees Celsius in the summers, causing more stress to the farming community.

Farmers also complain that the MSP provided by the government is not enough, and the crop insurance scheme offered by the government does not sufficiently cover the costs.

Led by the Jat community, the farmers’ protests have found significant ground here.

Fallout with Jat Leaders: Jat leaders like Satyapal Malik and Rahul Kaswan who have fallen out with the BJP have turned the Jat vote bank against the party.Jat supporters of these leaders feel neglected and even insulted. This has further exacerbated the traditional Jat rivalry with the Rajputs.Indian Wrestlers’ Protest: The alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers (mostly Jats) by BJP MP Brijbhushan Sharan Singh has become an emotive issue. The law is perceived to have not done justice. Leaders like former Governor Satyapal Malik have been at the forefront in supporting wrestlers. The police action against wrestlers has also angered the Jat community.Agniveer Scheme: The Agniveer scheme is another issue as local youth view it as a limitation on their aspirations to join the Army. Soldiering has been one of the few popular avenues for employment for decades in the area.Unemployment: Unemployment is a major issue in the Churu constituency. There are no prominent industries in Churu and most of the population is dependent on farming. While a large number of youths are unemployed, others are dependent on seasonal farming for their incomes.Hindutva: Hindutva is a major factor that many voters are drawn towards. The Ram Mandir inauguration is seen as an impactful event here. Polarisation of Hindu votes is also evident in many communities where caste affiliations have taken a back seat.Drinking Water Crisis: There is a scarcity of water here. Excess fluoride content in the groundwater has caused a drinking water crisis. There is an acute demand for RO plants and in the absence of these, people consume untreated groundwater from bore wells, leading to several health issues. Many RO plants installed by the state government lie defunct and have not been repaired.Electricity issues: People are also facing a significant shortage of electricity which has affected farmers the most. Farmers allege that electricity remains cut off for hours on end and remains unreliable the rest of the time. This fuelled anti-incumbency against the Congress led state government which was voted out of power late last year.

Infrastructure Development

The central and state governments are working on a project to transfer Yamuna’s water through underground pipelines to the areas like Churu and help increase Rajasthan’s consumption of its share of Yamuna water at Hathnikund.In 2022, the Rajasthan government allocated Rs 37.75 crore for the expansion of 10 airstrips across the state. Among them, Rs 4.60 crore was designated for the Padihara (Churu) airstrip. The nearest airport to Churu is Bikaner (BKB) Airport, 166.5 km away, with Jaipur (JAI) Airport also at approximately 183.6 km.The Bikaner railway station is going to be redeveloped at a cost of about Rs 480 crore which will benefit the residents of Churu as well. Rail connectivity and infrastructure in Churu and the Shekhawati region in general has improved in recent years.In July last year, Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the 42.81-km-long Churu-Ratangarh doubling line project, aimed at improving connectivity between Hisar, Bikaner, and Degana on the Jodhpur-Phulera mainline. This project, situated on the Hisar-Bikaner section, will be completed by 2025. It will enhance access to the renowned pilgrimage destination of “Salasar Balaji”.Highway connectivity has improved significantly in the region with Rajasthan reporting one of the fastest paces of highway construction in the last decade. Churu has gained multiple national highways and seen expansion of roads in recent years.
Read Full Article at Source